Monthly Archives: August 2011

Taking our Silliness on the Road: A Weekend Trip to Portland

After the weather we’ve had in Seattle these past few months, I wouldn’t know summer if it jumped up and bit me. But after a hot August weekend in Portland, you’ll no longer hear me complaining. It was so hot and sunny that I almost got a tan. And by hot, I mean ninety degrees. I’m officially a weather wimp.

Good thing Portland had other attractions to take my mind off the heat:

Thank you, Voodoo Doughnut. That maple bacon bar helped replenish my electrolytes…

So I could make sure my drag racing daughter and her drag racing cousins didn’t drive into oncoming traffic. That’s Rue riding shotgun in the squad car. Getting to ride in the front row is pretty good…

But being behind the wheel is all she’s ever wanted.

Hood ornaments are just getting to be ridiculous. Everyone seems to need a status symbol.

And you have to watch your surroundings at the U-Pick farms. You never know when a spider or bumblebee will come within four feet of you while your mother makes you pose with your green bean harvest.

In short, when vacationing with a herd of small children, don’t expect to hit the usual tourist destinations. You don’t have to go looking for adventure or photo-worthy moments. Both just seem to present themselves.

Later this week: green beans. Sure, Lupe was brave enough to pick them, but was she brave enough to eat them?


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Sauteed Beet Greens

Beet Week concludes with a recipe that uses these greens. I saved mine when I made the warm beet salad a few days back. They keep really well in the refrigerator. Just wash them, chop them, and toss them in a pan on medium heat where some olive oil, two cloves of minced garlic (three if you want to be left alone), and a pinch or two of red pepper flakes have been sauteing for about 30 seconds.

Like this one.

The beet greens will sizzle when they hit the hot pan. They’ll wilt, but they don’t release water the way spinach does. They also have a milder flavor than spinach, so try these with someone who swears they won’t eat cooked spinach. Sauteed beet greens have a nice texture and flavor.

They’ll be done after a couple of minutes. Season with kosher salt to taste. If you’ve left some of the stalks on the greens, you’ll get that lovely red-purple beet color on your plate.

Garnish with a slice or two of lemon.

Can you spot the difference?

Shaved Parmigiano Reggiano also makes a nice garnish.

Because in the end, it’s all about the cheese.

Sauteed Beet Greens

serves 2-3


beet greens from one bunch of beets, washed and chopped

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

pinch to 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, depending on your preference for heat

1 tablespoon olive oil

lemon for garnish

shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano for garnish (optional)


1. Heat a large pan over medium heat. Warm the olive oil, then add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Saute for about 30 seconds, stirring frequently.

2. Add the washed, chopped beet greens. Saute, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes.

3. Add kosher salt to taste.

4. Transfer to plates. Garnish with lemon and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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I’ll be honest. No matter how many exclamation marks I use in my tone of voice, Lupe and Rue won’t touch this:

That is their loss.

I had so much fun posting multiple buttermilk recipes a couple of weeks ago that I’ve decided to do the same this week, only with beets. A bunch of beets will net you at least a couple of vegetable servings because both the beets and the leaves are edible.

First up: warm salad of roasted beets, grilled corn, basil, and gorgonzola cheese.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cut the beets from the leaves. Wrap the leaves in paper towel or put them in a produce bag and keep them in the fridge for later use. Wash a couple of beets, trim the ends, and cut them into fourths if you’re not pressed for time, eighths if you want to speed up the roasting process. While the larger chunks take longer to cook, you’ll have fewer beet pieces to peel afterward.

Place the chopped beets in an oven-safe dish, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Cover in foil and bake for about 45 minutes, or until a fork slides through easily. The skins will slide right off with a little pressure from a fork or butter knife.

While the beets are cooking, cook a stalk of corn. I prefer to grill my corn. I pull off most of the stalk, remove as much corn silk as I can, and grill it on medium-low heat, rotating often, for about 15 or so minutes. Cover it with foil and set it aside until it’s cool enough to handle. Then, stand it on end and shear the corn away from the cob.

I was seriously tempted to make this week about gorgonzola.

There’s still time.

I thought that cheeses with blue veins were disgusting as a kid, yet I’ve been inexplicably drawn to them as an adult. I’m still waiting for that to happen with Brussels sprouts.

Cut off a hunk of gorgonzola and crumble it into large pieces.

Divide the beets and corn onto 2 or 3 plates. Add the gorgonzola and garnish with several basil leaves that you’ve torn into small pieces.

This is best served warm, and the gorgonzola is tangy enough that you don’t need to add dressing.

And Nacho Man, who feels about beets the way I feel about Brussels sprouts, proclaimed that he liked them with the smoky grilled corn. I’ll settle for a fifty percent approval rating from my family.

Warm Beet Salad with Grilled Corn, Gorgonzola, and Basil

serves 2


2 large beets, trimmed, washed, and cut into quarters or eighths

1 stalk of corn

1 tablespoon olive oil

kosher salt to taste

black pepper to taste

gorgonzola to taste

basil for garnish


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place beets in an oven-safe bowl and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Cover with foil and bake for about 45 minutes, or until a fork slides through easily. Peel skins with a fork or butter knife.

2. Cook corn using your preferred method. Try grilling it in its stalk, removing most of the stalk and as much corn silk as possible. Turn the corn several times during grilling. The corn will take approximately 15 minutes to cook on medium-low heat.

3. Stand the corn up on end, trimming the bottom to create a broader end if needed. Carefully run a sharp knife down the corn to remove large chunks of niblets.

4. Place beets and corn on individual plates. Garnish with gorgonzola cheese and basil. Mix gently and serve warm.

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Cafe Sua, or, Iced Coffee: Vietnamese Style

This is the simplest recipe I may ever post. I have no idea how many ingredients the chicken pho calls for or how many items go into the grilled shrimp tacos, but I can tell you that this recipe calls for two ingredients:

1. 2 tablespoons of medium ground coffee

2. 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk

Drizzle those two tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk into a glass.

Brew your two tablespoons of coffee with a little more than 1/3 cup of water. I like to use one of these.

This Vietnamese coffee filter set isn’t required–whatever method you’ve got is fine. This is available online for less than ten dollars, but you can pick one up for just a few bucks at your local Asian foods market. It’s got three parts (l-r): the press, the filter, and the lid.

Put 2 tablespoons of medium ground coffee into the filter. Shake it a bit to get rid of any grounds that are small enough to fit through the holes. Then, set the filter on top of the glass that contains the sweetened condensed milk.

Screw the press onto the coffee grounds. You want the grounds to be pressed in there pretty tight, but not so tight that the water can’t get through.

Add about 1/3 cup of boiling water to the filter. Place the lid on top of the filter.

You know the press is screwed on just right when the liquid coffee s-l-o-w-l-y drips out of the filter and onto the sweetened condensed milk. For me, this process takes several minutes. I try to find something else to do so I don’t agitate myself more than the caffeine is about to.

(This may be stating the obvious, but it is not a good idea to try to tighten or loosen the metal press once you’ve added scalding hot water. Unless you have no feeling in your fingertips.)

This is a great time to fill a second glass with ice. If you’re really serious, you’ll use coffee ice cubes so your drink doesn’t become diluted. Mine never lasts long enough for this problem to occur.

When all of the water has filtered through, remove the coffee set and stir the sweetened condensed milk and coffee together. It will be the most incredible caramel color.

Pour it over ice.

Cafe Sua (Vietnamese Iced Coffee)

makes 1 serving

Note: I like my coffee very strong. Feel free to change the amount of coffee to suit your taste. Just alter the amount of sweetened condensed milk accordingly.


2 tablespoons medium ground coffee

2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk

1/3 cup water



1. Brew coffee with your preferred method. If using a Vietnamese coffee filter set, bring water to a boil in a teakettle. Meanwhile, put 2 tablespoons of coffee in the filter, shaking it gently to remove any small grounds.

2. Set the coffee filter over a glass that contains 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk.

3. Screw the press until it fits snugly, but not too tightly, over the grounds.

4. Add the water and cover the filter set. The coffee should drip slowly from the filter, taking several minutes to completely drain.

5. Stir the coffee and sweetened condensed milk until well blended.

6. Serve over a glass of ice cubes (or coffee ice cubes).

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Book Blitz for July

I know that I called this the Book Blitz for July, and here it is August. Oh well. Mid-August is the new July. We’ve read lots of books since the last Book Blitz, but here’s what we’re loving:

Small Saul is a pirate. He is. He’s got the diploma to prove it and everything. Other things he’s got: a keen eye for decorating, cleanliness standards (no, our cabin should not smell like feet), and an appreciation for the healing powers of a bandage and lollipop during battle. What hasn’t he got? The respect of the Rusty Squid’s captain. By Ashley Spires. Ages 4-8.

If you love rocks, or you know a child who does, then you know that rocks are so much more than rocks. They are money, bases for fairy houses, berry mashers, and paint palettes in our house. In If Rocks Could Sing: A Discovered Alphabet, readers will see rocks that not only look like objects such as birds, ghosts, and igloos, but convey feelings such as joy and laziness (that would be the couch potato). By Leslie McGuirk. Ages 3-8.

I love How Things Work in the Yard, by Lisa Campbell Ernst. I love the array of topics covered: wagons, balls, and bubbles, to name a few. I love the way the clear, concise information is paired with collage artwork. I especially love that it’s so simple that even a science-challenged adult can understand it. Ages 4-8.

What do you do when you’re used to sprinting through life and that ability is suddenly taken from you? High school junior Jessica finds out when she loses a leg in a tragic bus accident on the way to a track meet. The Running Dream, by Wendelin Van Draanen, is a great choice for runners, anyone who has dealt with setbacks, and mother-daughter book clubs. Ages 12 and up.

Lupe loved to pretend she was the host of a television cooking show when she was about four years old. It was great fun, unless I was trying to concentrate on what I was doing in the kitchen. Which was most of the time. While Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly is the right level for Rue, it’s Lupe who identifies with the young protagonist who’s trying to host a cooking show in spite of his little sister’s annoying interruptions. Will the show go on? Written by Carolyn Parkhurst, illustrated by Dan Yacarino. Ages 3-6.

Me…Jane and The Watchers: while they sound like cheesy movie titles, both are actually lovely picture book biographies about Jane Goodall, who as a young girl dreamed of moving to Africa to live among and study animals. She faced many hurdles–societal, gender, and financial, to name a few. While both books can be read as stories, they are lovely presentations of the life and work of this significant scientist. Me…Jane written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell. The Watchers written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter. Ages 3-8.

Listen up, mama slugs. The boy in How to Teach a Slug to Read is going to teach you everything you need to know about, well, how to teach your young slugs to read. You’re too busy leaving holes in my garden plants and slime on my barbecue grill to take his advice? Well, it couldn’t be simpler with activities such as labeling things that interest your young slug, giving him or her fun books instead of tomes with dubious titles such as Mushy Love Stories and Homework is Fun!, and letting your slug underline his favorite words in his own slime. Most of these tips are even applicable to humans. But not the slime part, especially if you’re using library books. Written by Susan Pearson, illustrated by David Slonum. Ages 4-7.

If Inkling, the invisible bandapat in Invisible Inking, wanted to eat my squash, I’d let him live with me. After all, Inkling loves squash. But I suppose that helping fourth grader Hank deal with the school bully is more important than eating Pho Girl’s squash, so Inkling had better stay put. Written by  Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Harry Bliss. Ages 7-10.

Is bedtime a struggle in your household? Clearly you’re not offering the right incentive. In Mitchell’s License, Mitchell’s dad tells young Mitchell that he can get a driver’s license and drive to bed. At the age of 3 years, 9 months, and five days. Before you call Child Protective Services, check out what Mitchell’s dad is up to. WARNING: your child will want to imitate Mitchell. So you parents better be willing to imitate Mitchell’s dad. Personally, I love how relaxed Mitchell’s mom looks during the bedtime routine. Good for her. Written by Hallie Durand, illustrated by Tony Facile. Ages 3-7.

The young protagonist in My Dad, My Hero doesn’t harbor any illusions of greatness about his dad. He knows his dad isn’t a superhero. His dad is clumsy. Superhuman strength? Nope. His mom opens the pickle jars. Dad’s also scared of bees. And let’s not talk about the toilet paper problem. But none of that matters because this boy’s dad is always going to be his baseball-playing, movie-watching, hanging out together hero. By Ethan Long. Ages 3-7.

Hooray for 6 1/2 stories of love, laughs, surprises, and scares that Amanda and her alligator share in Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator!, by Mo Willems. There’s also one instance of alligator gnawing on human head, a shocking revelation about alligator’s past, and some panda bear-induced jealousy. Ages 4-8.

Speaking of Mo Willems, Gerald the Elephant ponders a question that I must admit has never crossed my mind: Should I Share My Ice Cream? Ages 4-8.

And for the adults, the newest offering by Pam Anderson. I know what you’re thinking. Not that Pam Anderson. Pam Anderson, award-winning and best-selling cookbook author, former executive editor for Cooks Illustrated, and Three Many Cooks food blogger. Her latest book is Perfect One-Dish Dinners: Everything You Need for Easy Get-Togethers. This cookbook’s got a great, user-friendly layout and scrumptious food photography. Anderson’s Cassoulet-Style Italian Sausages and White Beans, Jerk Chicken Chili, and Salsa Verde Chicken with Herbed Cornmeal Dumplings are going to be part of my regular fall and winter rotation. Those days will be here before we know it, especially since summer never officially made it to Seattle this year.


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North Meets South Cornbread

Buttermilk week continues with cornbread. Nothing makes Lupe happy quite like cornbread. She likes cakey Northern style cornbread, made with flour and sugar, rather than the unsweetened cornmeal-based recipe that so many cookbooks call true Southern style cornbread. We compromise and use half cornmeal and half gluten-free flour to make a cornbread that is pared down and grittier like Southern style cornbread but has some of the lightness and sweetness of Northern cornbread.

Put a skillet in the oven that you’re preheating to 400 degrees F. Mix 1 cup gluten-free flour blend, 1 cup cornmeal, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a large bowl.

In another bowl, mix 2 extra-large eggs, 1 cup of buttermilk, and 1/4 cup packed brown sugar. Then, add 1 stick of butter that you’ve melted and cooled a bit. Mix well.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until everything’s blended.

Take the hot skillet out of the oven and set it on a protected surface. Coat the skillet with 1 or 2 tablespoons of vegetable or canola oil, using a pastry brush to make sure you cover the entire surface.

Pour the batter into the prepared skillet and bake for about 35-45 minutes, or until the top of the bread if deep golden-brown and the bread pulls away from the sides of the pan.

Gluten-Free Cornbread

makes 1 skillet full


1 cup gluten-free flour mix

1 cup cornmeal

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 stick butter, melted then cooled

1 cup buttermilk

2 extra-large eggs

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1-2 tablespoons of vegetable or canola oil for the skillet


1. Place a skillet in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

2. Mix gluten-free flour mix, cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl until well blended.

3. Beat the eggs, then stir in the buttermilk and brown sugar.

4. Add the egg mixture to the dry mixture. Stir well.

5. Mix the butter into the mixture.

6. Remove the hot skillet from the oven. Spread 1-2 tablespoons of oil in the skillet with a pastry brush.

7. Pour the batter into the skillet and return to oven. Bake 35-45 minutes, or until cornbread is golden brown on top and has pulled away from the sides of the pan. Cool completely.

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Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

My last batch of blog posts were about foods you could roll. Last week, I forgot to ask the milkman not to deliver more buttermilk, so now I have too much buttermilk on my hands. This week, you’ll be seeing lots of recipes that use buttermilk so I don’t have to resort to drinking it from the container.

First up: buttermilk ranch dressing. It also makes an excellent dip.

And an excuse to eat potato chips. If you’re looking for an excuse. You’re welcome.

And in spite of the plethora of recipes using ground beef that you’ll find on this site, we do like our daughters to eat fruit and vegetables in their most natural state. That being said, sometimes the veggies need a break from their wholesomeness.

Buttermilk ranch dressing is always happy to help sully the reputation of a raw vegetable.

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

makes 1/2 cup


1/4 cup good quality full-fat mayonnaise, such as Best Foods

1 clove garlic

juice of half a lemon

1/2-1 teaspoon Kosher salt (I use a scant 1 teaspoon)

black pepper to taste

buttermilk to create the consistency you like (I use 2 tablespoons)

herbs such as chives or parsley (optional)


1. Put the mayonnaise, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Process until well blended.

2. Add the buttermilk, 1 tablespoon at a time, and blend well. Stir the mixture with a spoon and adjust seasonings if necessary.

3. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes to let flavors come together. Adjust seasonings if necessary.

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